You can use this guide to prepare for your fi rst speech and as a checklist for all the speeches you give in your public
speaking class. You can also use the guide as a handy
reference for speeches you give aft er college.
Presenting a speech involves six basic stages:
1. Determining your purpose and topic (Chapter 4)
2. Adapting to your audience (Chapter 5)
3. Researching your topic (Chapter 6)
4. Organizing your ideas (Chapter 8)
5. Practicing your speech (Chapter 12)
6. Presenting your speech (Chapter 12)
Th ese stages blend together—they’re integrated parts
of a whole, not discrete units. For example,
■ As you’re analyzing your audience (stage 2),
you revise your topic focus (stage 1).
■ What you fi nd out about your audience (stage 2) will
infl uence how you research your topic (stage 3).
■ When practicing your speech (stage 5), you may
decide that the fl ow of your ideas won’t work for
your audience (stage 2), so you go back and
modify the organization of your ideas
Although public speaking may seem to be all about
presenting, most of a successful speaker’s work takes place behind the scenes, well before the speaking event. Let’s go through each activity in the speechmaking process.
1. Determine Your Purpose and Topic
a. Decide on your overall goal, or the general purpose
of your speech.
• First speeches in a public speaking class usually
aim to inform or enhance listeners’ knowledge
of a topic. Example: In introducing a classmate,
you’d want your audience to learn a few key bits
of information about the person.
• Some fi rst speeches seek to entertain listeners
by sharing anecdotes and using humor. Example:
In introducing yourself, you might tell your
audience a funny story about your summer
• Speeches to persuade focus on infl uencing people’s
behaviors, values, or attitudes. Example: Trying to
convince audience members to exercise regularly
b. After you’ve identified the speech’s general purpose, choose your topic.
• Sometimes your instructor will assign a topic for
your fi rst speech, such as introducing yourself to
• In other cases, your assignment may be more
broad, like informing the audience about an
important campus issue.
• Pick something of interest to you that you think
will appeal to your audience too.
2. Adapt to Your Audience
a. In choosing a topic, keep your audience in mind so
your speech will interest them.
• In-depth research allows you to design a speech
tailored to your audience.
• You probably won’t be able to do in-depth research
for your fi rst speech, but just looking around
the classroom gives you some clues about your
audience. Demographic characteristics such as
ethnic background, age, sex, and educational
level tell you a lot. Example: If you wanted to
give a speech about aff ordable housing in your
community, you’d probably want to approach
the issue from the point of view of renters, not
landlords, because your student audience is far
more likely to rent than to own their own home.
b. Adapting your speech to your audience means that
you apply the information you’ve gathered about
them when designing your speech.
• Target your message to this particular audience at
this particular time and place.
• Use audience-centered communication that
engages your listeners and helps you achieve your
goal for the speech.
• You want your audience to feel as if you’re
speaking directly to them.
3. Research Your Topic
a. You have many sources of information for
your speech topics.
• Common sources are books, websites, magazines,
newspapers, government publications, and
interviews with individuals.
• But begin with yourself and what you already
know about the topic.
b. Once you’ve identified your knowledge base, seek
out additional sources of information